As a lifelong resident of rural Oregon, I know all too well how many people in our region are affected by drug addiction. Addiction knows no bounds and strikes people regardless of where they live, their age, background or community status.
It’s not just our community. In fact, one in 10 Oregonians is addicted to drugs and one to two people die daily in our state due to an overdose.
This is why I am a strong supporter of Measure 110. We in Eastern Oregon particularly are in dire need of expanded services for addiction recovery. This measure would provide that. It will greatly expand access to drug treatment and recovery services throughout the state. Anyone who wants services will be able to get them, not just those who have the funds or the “right” insurance.
Throughout my life, I’ve known many people struggling with substance use disorders — adolescents, family, friends and neighbors. Resources for recovery for far too many people didn’t exist or were inaccessible. I’ve attended more than my share of funerals due to drug overdoses that could, and should, have been prevented.
Now that I am a family nurse practitioner, I’ve seen patients held in the same grip of drugs.
One of the things many people struggling with addiction have in common is a desire to break the cycle, yet they don’t know where to turn, and neither do many of those to whom they turn for help.
I’ve dealt with this firsthand as a health care provider, seeking access to recovery for patients ready to beat their addiction. Finding a spot in a drug treatment program immediately is next to impossible. It doesn’t help that Oregon ranks nearly last of all states in the availability of drug treatment. Wait lists often are weeks — and sometimes months — long.
When people with addiction must wait, many revert to problematic drug use. The longer the wait, the more at-risk they are of overdosing. When people know how scarce resources are, many choose to not seek help at all. Others can’t bear the shame the senseless stigma of addiction carries.
However, by voting “YES” on Measure 110 on Nov. 3 we finally can change this for the better. This proposal will not legalize any drugs. Rather, it greatly expands access to drug treatment and recovery services for those who want and need them—without creating any new taxes. It’ll be paid for with existing marijuana tax money.
Changing our approach to addiction and treating it as a health issue is long overdue. We need Measure 110 now. The way we treat addiction has put people in a position of worrying about being arrested when coming forward for help. Even a misdemeanor charge for low-level possession of drugs can result in a criminal record that ruins lives.
The criminal records people with addictions are saddled with create new barriers to housing, jobs, student loans, professional licenses and more. Jailing people for an addiction derails access to recovery and other health care services, rips families apart, and makes it harder for them to get their lives on track. Evidence shows that criminal charges for addiction related crimes have done nothing to solve the addiction crisis we are facing.
This practice is cruel and ineffective. Measure 110 provides an effective, humane approach to addiction by providing access to treatment and recovery services, housing and other supportive services.
Without Measure 110, it’s a truly heart-breaking situation for me as a provider, my patients and their loved ones. The last thing I want as a care provider is to not be able to connect patients with the resources they need when they are ready.
Nov. 3 is our opportunity to say “enough is enough” and take a stand to decriminalize addiction and treat it as a health issue, best managed by health care professionals.
About the Author
Cami Bean of La Grande is a registered nurse in Oregon and a family nurse practitioner.